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To the Stars, Tritons

Commencement celebrates the astronomical achievements of graduates

UC San Diego 2022 Commencement crowd.

Thousands of graduates gathered on RIMAC Field last weekend to celebrate Commencement, draped in stoles and honor cords and cheered on by their family and friends. Photos by Erik Jepsen/University Communications.

You could hear the swish of gowns as graduates hurried from one end of Ridge Walk to the other, eager to line up with their peers on the most important day of their academic career. Each proudly donned the symbols of their college and honors earned—golden cords, colorful stoles and twirling tassels. After they crossed the stage and were embraced by family and friends, many were showered with bouquets of flowers, teddy bears and orchid leis.

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Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla congratulated graduates and reminded them of their great potential to develop solutions for our world’s most imminent issues.

UC San Diego’s 11 Commencement ceremonies honored more than 8,000 students who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees this academic year. The ceremony was opened with a powerful performance of the national anthem by Arisa Namioka—a Warren College student graduating with a degree in psychology—who garnered roaring cheers from the crowd as she hit the high notes.

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla lauded the graduates at All Campus Commencement, held on Saturday, June 11. “I am always so proud of every graduating class, and especially this one,” he said. “You have proven not only that you can adapt, but that you can also thrive under extenuating circumstances. So today, we celebrate you for your remarkable accomplishments and the gift of your interaction with this university.”

Khosla also called the Class of 2022 to action. “Your fellow humans and our planet need you right now. With issues like war, gun violence, mental health, systemic racism and climate change, there is much work to do. And these are not easy problems to solve; they require earnest effort, collaboration and time. You are the solution. You are the most capable generation in human history.”

Find your North Star

As someone who has gazed down at the rugged mountain peaks, vast oceans and swirling sand dunes of earth from 250 miles above, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir has a passion for our planet. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography alumna was invited to speak with graduates about how her experience at UC San Diego prepared her for the rigors of space travel, as well as offer words of wisdom to the graduates who are ready to make their mark.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir at the 2022 commencement ceremony.

Alumna Jessica Meir presented the university with a Scripps Institution of Oceanography flag that she had brought with her to the International Space Station.

Meir echoed Chancellor Khosla, noting that this generation genuinely cares for the environment, and that it is the responsibility of everyone to help sustain the earth. “Whether it is one of your priorities or not, you are dealing with the consequences of all those before you,” said Meir. “It is our duty as a temporary inhabitant of this brilliant, blue oasis in the solar system to cherish and to protect it. Your choices matter: reduce your use of plastics, utilize clean energy, minimize food waste…and most importantly, make our democracy work. Exercise your right to vote and elect people that will propel us forward in the right direction.”

Before blasting off to space, Meir was like many other typical Tritons, floating in the Pacific waters off the coast of La Jolla on her longboard. She drew further comparisons by sharing her personal experience with imposter syndrome. Meir explained she would often attribute success to having luck and a good work ethic rather than innate skill and intelligence. “I felt that although things were working out for me as I progressed through each chapter of my thesis work, surely it would catch up to me—eventually my good luck streak would end, and I would be exposed as someone who didn’t have what it takes to be a scientist.”

Yet she persevered and pushed past the fear of inadequacy. The trick, Meir revealed, is to find your North Star—that dream that excites you and compels you to keep moving forward.

“Everyone experiences self-doubt at times,” she said. “You may feel alone in that struggle, but I promise you the sentiment is shared. Remember to find what it is you are passionate about in this world. Make it your north star. Cultivate it into a positive, purposeful passion. The possibilities are truly endless when we allow our authentic selves to shine through and fortify our dreams with determination.”

Miedo a que? Fear of what?

Student speaker  Anthony Lucas Lima at the 2022 commencement ceremony.

Commencement student speaker Lucas Anthony Lima shared a message of courage for his peers and gratitude to all those who supported him during his academic career.

It was Anthony Lucas Lima’s dream to serve as commencement student speaker and share his authentic story—a dream that came true. On stage in front of thousands of his peers, he delivered a message of gratitude and relentless courage. As a queer, transgender, low-income, first-generation Mexican immigrant, Lima acknowledged the love that surrounded him and encouraged graduates to reflect on all of the people in their life that helped them get to where they are.

Lima’s family cheered as he took the stage.

Lima’s family cheered as he took the stage to deliver a send-off message to the Class of 2022, waving giant images of him in celebration.

“You made it, despite all the days you thought you wouldn’t,” said Lima. “I’m sure you’re not here alone. I’m sure there are people in this crowd who are somehow more excited than you to be here and there are people we wish we could have here who we simply can’t.”

A key element of Lima’s strength was inspired by his mother who would ask him, “Miedo a que?” “Fear of what?” Rather than navigating the world without any regard for the dangers that exist, it was a lesson in confident decision making. There is no challenge that cannot be surmounted with the right tools and a supportive community.

With a sentiment of genuine appreciation for his peers, Lima left fellow graduates with an optimistic send off. “Miedo a que? Fear of what? You’ve already overcome every fear you’ve ever had to get here, so go out into the world, stand proud in yourself, and everything will find its place. Congratulations, Class of 2022.”

Spread your wings

mortarboards at 2022 commencement.

Many UC San Diego graduates decorated their mortarboards with meaningful messages and creative quips to mark the completion of their degree.

The sea of mortarboards at All Campus Commencement were punctuated by personal statements and decked out designs from creative graduates. One poignant one read, “Confidence comes from victory, but strength comes from struggle.” Another framed in glittering butterflies rhymed: “Spread your wings and spark beautiful things.” Others expressed gratitude, “Thanks Mom and Dad, to be continued.” While some opted for humor, “I worked hard for this B.S.”

At the end of formal remarks, Associated Student President Manu Agni led his peers in the ceremonial tassel turn. From right to left, in a matter of moments, students officially became alumni of UC San Diego.

“I’m pretty nervous; it’s been a long four years,” said Ignatius Widjaja on how he felt at commencement. Why the nerves? “What to do next, even though I have my future plans lined up.” Widjaja studied aerospace engineering and plans to become an intern at General Atomics before returning to UC San Diego for a master’s degree. He has been fascinated by planes ever since he was 5 years old and first flew to the U.S. with his family from Indonesia.

2022 graduate.

Graduates had the opportunity to receive individual recognition on stage at each of the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies.

Graduate Shimika Basuray was drawn to UC San Diego to study cognitive science where the field originated—the university is home to the first Department of Cognitive Science in the world. “I have a lot of different emotions—happy and sad—bittersweet ending,” said Basuray on finishing her degree. “Because it’s the end of a chapter, end of my student life, time to be an adult now.”

Literature major Haley Balch had the chance to celebrate with her best friend. “I feel excited; I’m happy. I get to graduate with my best friend. We’ve gone to school together since elementary school.” Post-graduation Balch plans to travel before pursuing a career as an editor.

As the students-turned-alumni ponder where their paths will lead, they can keep in mind one more piece of advice Meir had given: stay open. “Keep in mind that you can never anticipate what life will bring you. Be ready. Open yourself up to the surprises and opportunities that head your way. You never know where they will take you.”

Like Meir, we wish all graduates best of luck on their journey and echo the final words of her speech: “Ad astra, Tritons.” To the stars.

Graduates at the 2022 commencement.

Congratulations to the Class of 2022. We look forward to learning about the incredible contributions each of you will make in your respective fields.